PEI

More recruitment for long-term care needed, says union president

The union representing Islanders who work in long-term care wants more effort put into recruitment in the field. 

Vacancies, COVID-19 outbreaks lead to stressful situation for workers in the care fields

The Garden Home is one of the Island's long-term care homes that has experienced both a COVID-19 outbreak and a general staffing shortage. (Tony Davis/CBC)

The union representing some Prince Edward Islanders who work in long-term care wants more effort put into recruitment in the field. 

The Union of Public Sector Employees, or UPSE, represents about 900 workers in government-run long-term care homes, and private workers at the Garden Home, Whisperwood Villa and Lady Slipper Villa. 

In that sector, according to Health P.E.I., there are 35 vacant resident care worker positions and 29 licensed practical nurse positions in the public care homes. 

There are currently seven long-term care facilities facing COVID-19 outbreaks on the Island. The staff shortages, and the outbreaks, led to a call for volunteers in January to work in homes on P.E.I. 

UPSE president Karen Jackson says people who work in the field are struggling because of the staffing situation. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

The whole picture has left staff feeling overwhelmed, according to UPSE president Karen Jackson.

"They are struggling," said Jackson.

"Many of our members were off because they were close contacts or positive themselves, so there was a need to bring someone in just to help through this crisis." 

In one situation she estimates a third of the staff were off work at one point. 

"It puts an awful heavy load on the staff remaining," she said.

"These residents still need to be cared for, their basic needs need to be met." 

Jason Lee, the CEO of P.E.I. Seniors Homes, said the number of workers who came to the Garden Home through that call was helpful during their short-staffed period. 

Jason Lee, CEO of P.E.I. Seniors Homes, says recruitment remains his top priority. (Ken Linton/CBC)

The home ended up getting 19 workers in, Lee said, nine of them nursing students who had medical training. He said he was amazed that about 100 people volunteered to help.

Lee said recruitment is his top priority.

Need for national standard

The call for outside help was "unconventional" but well-intentioned, said Jacson, and it did help in the short term.

"There needs to be a longer lens put on so this doesn't happen again," she said. 

There should be national standards that include a clear staff to resident ratio to ensure proper care for residents, and enough staff so that individual workplaces are safe, she said.

In a statement, Health P.E.I. said it is working with all health-care hiring partners and P.E.I.'s RCW and LPN training programs, as well as keeping in touch with students, as part of its long-term recruitment plan.

"Government has worked with our educational partners at Holland College to increase the number of LPN seats and is working on strategies to support RCW programs to fill their seat offerings with a view to increasing the labour supply," the statement said.

The statement goes on to say there are shortages across the country of more than 10,000 RCWs and around 5,500 LPNs. 

With files from Laura Chapin

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